Monday, November 29, 2010

Another Nice Remix XP Overnighter

We hadn't done an overnighter in a while and Kelly (the spreadsheet queen) said, "hey lets go on an overnight kayak trip". So we did.   The relevant descriptive phrases to this trip are; thanksgiving break, broken down car, low water, mellow days, meat stick, warm fire, tasty beverages, and beautiful Chattooga River.   It was just the 3 of us on the water and it made for a perfect start to the vacation.
There are more photos just CLICK THIS


Monday, July 05, 2010

Giant Slalom on the Green River

Jeff "Freight Train" Payne givin'er
This is my favorite form of racing on whitewater.  I love the technical nature of paddling harder rapids with gates hung that make you paddle places you might not have or even wanted to paddle necessarily.  In fact setting the gates makes a rapid that you may have paddled a hundred times a totally different problem because you have to look at it and paddle it in a different way.

Checking out the lines
Gate 1:  Go over drop backwards to the left,  Go into the parking garage on the right.

John set up a great course on a river that most of us know so well we can point out one inch water level differences on just about any section of the river.  The fact that he set up some moves that many of us had never done before was awesome.  Let me give you a run down.

Adriene focused in on Gate 1

The starting point itself was somewhat unknown.  The race started just below the Pencil Sharpener drop in a crack in the rocks.  Many of us have started here a time or two but its very unusual.  The thing that makes it more unusual is that its 5 strokes from there that you are dropping through the notch of Gorilla and headed for the first gate.

Yours truly feeling good about first gate little did I know what would happen next.

The first gate is the one that had every competitor focused, and a little nervous.  It was hanging in an eddie.  No big deal right?  The only problem is that this eddie was 3 strokes from the top of a big drop that lands on rocks, between rocks, and finishes in a river wide hole.  Top that with the fact that rumored changes in the currents around the drop that is Gorilla were leading to many creative lines including numerous backwards runs through out the spring and summer so far.  It was awesome to watch the focus come over every ones face at the start line.

Nice race bib rescue by Nate.  Thanks!

The next gate was the one that evaded the most paddlers.  It was placed just downstream of the speed trap below Gorilla and near the right hand wall.  The current coming out the hole is pushing hard into the eddie on the left thus making hitting this gate on the fly very difficult and nearly impossible to get from the eddie if you miss it the first time.  This gate lead to my demise on my first run.  I came off the drop in perfect position to move towards the right side of the hole and thus stay right as I came through the hole, but just as I was hitting the hole I angled a little too much to the right and the hole stopped me dead.  I had a millisecond to try to pull through but I didn't get a good stroke then I felt myself dropping back into the hole.  I tried to line it up for a good back ender that usually pushes you out of the hole.  I was hoping it would also drive me towards the gate just below but my freestyle background kicked in by accident and I threw my body back more like a loop than an ender and unfortunately I stuck it and proceeded to side surf, do another end, and then get pushed up against the wall where I gave up while face surfing and flailing roll attempts.  At any rate this gate was tough and in a second many paddlers were given 50 second penalties for missing the gate.  I was given a good solid ounce of humility.

Heres the beat down video from John Grace and LVM.
Shane Benedict caught in a rare moment of carnage from Lunch Video Magazine on Vimeo.

Now after a little set back like that there are a couple ways it can go.  It can all go down hill from there or you pick yourself up and go for it again.  First of all I was bummed because I knew I could have done well in this type of event.  After the down river part of the race I was in 4th and I knew my strengths were in the Giant Slalom.  So that was a bummer and of course I was not that psyched about swimming at all but after getting it back together I knew I had to go back up there to do my second run and see if I could actually make it to the bottom of the course :).  I was tired from the swim and my arms still felt the stress from the down river race.  So sitting at the top of the race course and looking back down the throat of the notch was not very high on my list of things I wanted to do but it was that thought of knowing it was something that I could do that gave me calm in that moment.  My second run went very well and it ended up tying for one of the  fastest runs of the slalom course.  

Here is the video of the 2nd run.

Shane Benedict cleaning up his run #2 in 2010 Giant Slalom. from Lunch Video Magazine on Vimeo.

That was a good feeling. 

So it was a crazy day.  The excitement of competition.  The nerves of challenge.  The expectations of performance.  The failure.  The dose of humility. The challenge of refocus and finally the contentment of pushing through.  It was a great day.  A different day than most but a great day.

Adriene coming into Gate 3.  You can see Gate 1 and 2 behind Lil A.

The Scream Machine gate, gate 3, was placed further left than most people run that drop.  It wasn't a scary spot but it did make for some shaky runs down Nies'.  The fast line was to go left of the gate then use the pillow currents on the left shore to push you across to the river right line at Nies' which lines you up for the 4th gate below the boof on the right of Nies'. 

Toby "Budget" McDermott riding Frankenjefe III into Gate 4.

The 5th gate was all the way on the river left side of the river from gate 4.  The tricky part about this gate was that it was possible to hit it while going downstream but it was very tight and only a couple people were able to clean that line.  It was much easier to clean going upstream from the eddie but the trade off was the speed downstream.

Sprinkle, smooth as ever, trying to sneak by the tricky Gate 5

After the 5th gate we had to drop down through Power Slide and keep it lined up for a tiny finish gate between the rocks in the middle of the river.  This proved to be one of the hardest parts of the course where numerous paddlers spent 20 or 30 seconds trying to line up the final move to stop their time. 

Dropping into the final move
Great day with great folks on the river.

There was also a sprint race as the start of this event.  Which seeded everyone for the slalom portion of the event.  We raced from Big Hungry (the put in) down to Chiefs' rapid.  It was about a 10 minute race and it was brutal.  The scores from the two slalom runs were 50% of the score and the sprint race was 50% to make the placings for the entire event.   Congrats to Pat for paddling beautifully and winning the event.

The entire results are here. 

Here are a bunch of shots from the event.  Thanks Betsy!

Thanks for pulling me out of the drink Nate!

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Green River Games: A summer camp paddling competition

Lots of Liquidlogic out there.

I got to spend last weekend with a group of camps from Western North Carolina.  They were all competing in the Green River Games a competition hosted by Green River Adventures.  The comp was for camps that have whitewater paddling programs.  They competed in 3 different events, slalom, down river, and team racing.  Woody and I did some surfing and stand up paddle boarding with them as well.  Inbetween races we coached and paddled with all the kids.  They were fired up to try anything new.

Remixing it up with Matthew Hilbish from Camp Talisman

There were 6 camps involved in the competition.

Congratulations to Camp Illahee (the only girls camp) for winning the first Green River Games.  

The other camps involved were:
Camp Carolina
Camp Blue Star
Camp High Rocks
Falling Creek Camp

It was awesome to paddle with all those young guys and girls. We did a bunch of surfing at the surf wave on the lower Green.  Everyone seemed to get a pretty good hang of it by the end of the session.  I also got to practice my Coupe surfing.  Woody had a bunch of Stand Up Paddleboards and when I saw him it was total chaos.  All the kids wanted to jump on the Versa Board.  It seemed to be a big hit.

How often do you blast and hang out with tubers at the same time.

Anyway it was an awesome day all around.
Hopefully we'll see even more camps out for next years Green River Games.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

First Descent of the Loop on the Youghiogheny River...on an SUP

The last time I was standing at Cucumber on the Youghiogheny River

I know I know, I used the oldest trick in the book to peak the interest.  A typical Youtube attempt to lure you in with the title of the article.  But I can promise you photos and videos of Andy and I crashing through the Loop section of the Youghiogheny.  We did manage to stand up through most of it but there was a little action for sure.  I just plain chickened out at Cucumber.  I had a bad line going so I just knelt down so I wouldn't land on a rock from standing cause that would hurt.  In fact I braced up off a rock at the bottom of the rapid while kneeling.  Theres a pretty good shot of it in the video.  Andy on the other hand tried to stick it standing and it looked like he had a shot at it... and then... he fell down.

When things go bad

Andy Hanging Tough at Cucumber

Andy had been trying to get out on the Loop on SUP this summer but was getting rejected by the State Park, because the river is restricted for inflatable craft.  They must have at least 3 air chambers in case one fails and the only boards people were trying to take down were single chamber inflatables.  So that left Andy one option to Stand Up, other than Striding of course, The Versa Board.  So we went for it.

The Lower Yough is a classic class 2-3 stretch that has some technical rapids at the level we were paddling.  Its amazing the difference paddling boards in class 2, and class 3.  When you add that extra level of manuevering and diagonal waves and holes it makes stand up paddling much harder.   I do think that anyone can paddle class 1 and even easy class 2 on an SUP but when you have to start reading the river and dealing with more complex currents it gets really really hard.  Which is a great challenge for experienced paddlers but could leave newer paddlers very wet.

It was a great day and weekend visiting Andy and Erica at Riversport and enjoying the community that is hanging out at the Lucky Dog Cafe in Confluence Pa.

Big Thanks to Erica, Andy, and the crew at Riversport and the Lucky Dog Cafe

Here is the video I promised.  Later Shane

plus a few more photos

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Versa Boards on the Hiawassee River

Woody, Adriene, Maria, and I rambled over to Eastern Tennessee to take a trip down the Hiawassee river on Stand Up Paddle Boards.   The river was perfect for SUP, great sceneary, some whitewater, a little wildlife, and the water was cool because it comes from the bottom of a lake but it felt great on what was a really hot day.  We were joining a bigger group of SUP folks cruising the river.  It was the most people stand up paddling down a river that I had ever been a part of.   Awesome day.

Hanging on in the Island Rapid!

Surfing a huge gnarly wave on the Hiawassee!

Team V for Versa Board.

Here is a new radical trick I am working on for the Versa Board.  Thanks Maria

Here are a bunch of photos that Maria took of our trip.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Pilgrimage to Oh Be Joyful Creek

Oh Be Joyful creek is a pilgrimage for paddlers every year.  It has all the makings of mecca for paddlers.  If the season in the Crested Butte valley were a couple months longer there would be 100s of paddlers moving in for the summer but because the season is only a few weeks long it has the feeling of a carnival camp with new members rolling in daily and a frantic pace of paddling and partying up and down the valley.   Camp itself is an awesome scene.  Its a beautiful spot directly at the base of the Oh Be watershed with the Slate River flowing by.  Just upstream is Daisy creek and up the valley from camp is a fantastic view of the mountains of Gunnison National Forest and the snow pack that promises the next days adventures.

If you haven't paddled continuous fast pace stuff your first time on Oh Be can be disconcerting at best.  As you walk up the run, earning every turn, you see lots of slides and fast paced whitewater.  The 9,000 foot elevation makes the eddies look very small and the holes look bigger but as the light headedness dissipates and the first run is under your belt the butterflies calm and you become more comfortable.  Most folks do a few laps on the first walk up from camp.  Two things happen during the session.  You as a paddler get more comfortable and the river begins to rise.  The morning runs are often a little bonier and the evening runs can get downright juicy.  And as the paddlers come down off the mountain side the excitement is intense.  The stories are of all kinds.  First timers are jacked with adrenaline and excited about how fast and long the last slides are or how sick their line off the big drop was.  There is goodness for the old pros and the setting itself is different from just about any river you will ever paddle.  There are stories of whoa from missed lines, tortured gear, and drowned vehicles that didn't quite make the trip across the Slate river.  This year in the first 36 hours we were in the area 3 vehicles were stuck in the river while trying to cheat the hike up to the put in.  I did climb into one rig that was stuck mid river to have dinner and a couple shots.  It was a pleasant mid river camp spot but expensive I think.

The Glorious Ride Across in the Morning.
The Unfortunate Aftermath in the Evening

Even putting in on OBJ is a different experience.  You have a couple choices.  One option is to put in above a drop called Ankle Breaker which is fun but it does land in 3 feet of water (not many people do this).  The other option is to put in, I kid you not, 15 feet and 4 to 5 paddle strokes above a good 15 foot drop that they call the 18 footer.  Fortunately you are well warmed up and light headed from the hike up the valley, or holler as we call it here in the Appalachians.  From there the river is pretty much non stop with small eddies and lots of willows overhanging the banks.  We coined a new phrase this time up..."willow turns".  There are times instead of doing eddie turns you have to do a "willow turn" to stop and set safety.  Here are a few shots and a slide show as well as a link at the bottom to 100 shots of our stay at Oh Be Joyful.


Put In Above the "18 Footer"

The 18er
The 8 footer
Grace Stylin' the Big One

Headed back to Camp

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Versa Board down Gore Creek in Vail, Co.

The last couples weeks has had me traveling in Colorado for a couple events and a couple rivers.  This past weekend I was helping at the Teva Mountain Games with the Extreme Race down Homestake Creek and the Freestyle Event in the middle of the Vail Village.  I also signed up for the SUP surf cross sprint down Gore Creek which is the first time I have entered any kind of an event on a stand up paddle board.  Its also the first time that I have run a river that I hadn't first run in a kayak.  So it was a personal first descent for me and my Versa Board.

Theres a video at the bottom of the story.

 Gore Creek is very continuous especially at the levels we were on it.  The video is from the day before the race.  The water came up several hundred CFS the next morning for the sup race which made all the waves bigger and the whole section much more continuous.  There were a couple of solid class two drops that were made more difficult by low hanging bridges.  Its one thing to stand up down rapids but to also duck under bridges, pipes, and trees makes it more like a class 3-4 experience.  The first trip down was pretty uneventful.  I managed to not fall in at all but I could feel how tired my legs were after three and a half miles of maintaining my balance and paddling.  Lets just say it was a good workout.

The race went well.  I finished 16th out of 39 guys. The water was much higher during the race and the waves and rapids were a lot bigger.  I fell 3 times I think mostly because I was exhausted.  When I stepped off my board my legs were shaking and my arms were tired.  It didn't help that we were racing at 8000 ft.  It was a great time and I will do it again.  One of the cool things that happened during this event was that a team of Hawaiian SUP racers flew over for the event.  Of course they came and kicked all our asses but they also brought a good vibe.  Before the race they handed out shell necklaces to everyone and asked us to remember the things that were important.  They wanted everyone to look out for each other and remember that just paddling and friends were what it was all about.

I hope you are all getting out on all the water.

Here is a video of the session on Gore Creek on the Versa Board.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Overnighter on the Chattooga 2010

     Its a trip I have done since I was a kid.  When I first started paddling down the Chattooga it was all about me and the experience I was having.  I was completely focused on the skills I was learning, the rapids I was running, and how much fun I was having.  Now 30 years later its all about the trip as a whole.  Sure I want to have a good time but seeing every body else have a great time is as important if not more so and in that experience I am having the time of my life.
     Except for a few folks having to miss the trip it went off without a hitch and that is an understatement.  Saturday morning it was a little drizzly, grey, and cool, but as soon as we rolled into South Carolina the skies began to clear.  We rolled down the windows to the LL van for some warm breezes.  It really started to feel like summer was just a day or two away.

    We had a very mixed crew ranging in age from 1 to nearly 50.  Paddling experiences from total beginner to grizzled veterans.   Now that Liquidlogic is turning 10 years old its cool to have so many different options of boats for people to paddle.   The beginner paddlers jumped in the Remixs and Coupe sit on tops.  The veterans piled their boats high with gear for the over night trip in the Remix XP, Deuce Coupe, and I played around with a Versa Board loaded down like a barge for the trip.  We also had a double duck to take the smallest kid in, and a raft for the floating imagination island of the young boys.

     Of course it was fun to watch the boys play "lord of the flies" on the raft but a really cool thing to watch develop over the two days was Vicky learning to paddle on the fly.  The two day trip starts with very easy whitewater and lots of flatwater which was perfect because she was able to learn her strokes very well and get a feel for how the Remix 59 turns and travels through the water.  Day two picks up quite a bit with more whitewater and faster moving current and she handled it all incredibly well.   In fact towards the end of day two is a section with a couple of really rapids and she walked back up to run Dicks Creek Ledge (a nice easy class 3 drop at this level) a second time just for fun.

The above shot is Vicky on her first day of kayaking on Big Shoals of Section 2 of the Chattooga.

These two shots are of Dicks Creek Ledge on Section 3.

Go Vicky!

We also had a great mix of gear boats.  Nick turned his raft into a floating imagination island with a mountain of gear in the middle.  Betsy loaded up a Deuce Coupe sit on top with gear for two, beers and chocolate milk for everybody else.  Polk loaded up his Ducky for the entire family.  Maria and Elsy took the Remix XPs down with loaded hatches and I piled a bunch of gear on top of the Versa Board to see how it would handle a load.


Oh and lets not forget food.  The only way to have a great overnighter or multi day trip is with good food.  Nick made an awesome Dahl Bhat dinner with Nan and we cooked up Blueberry pancakes and scrambles for breakfast.  Throw in some good lunches and beverages and you have the perfect trip topper.  I think next time we really need to make it three or four days.

Some day make it a priority to go spend the weekend out, with sand between your toes, and the sounds of the river putting you to sleep.

Here is a slide show of all the photos from the trip.

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